Someone spray-painted "Black Lives Matter" and an expletive about the Durham Police Department overnight on a memorial outside the former Durham County Courthouse on East Main Street.
Durham police officers noticed the vandalism at about 3:30 a.m. and passed word along to county officials. County crews immediately power-washed the monument to clean it up when they started their shifts at 7:30 a.m., county spokeswoman Deborah Craig-Ray said.
"The important thing is that we moved very quickly," she said. "Our biggest concern is about what was done to government property."
The security cameras in the area aren't working, Craig-Ray said, and county officials are considering adding cameras in addition to making other security changes.
Last Wednesday, a Confederate monument in Durham-owned Maplewood Cemetery was spray-painted, and the "Silent Sam" statue on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus was defaced Sunday.
Russell Robinson, an assistant professor of mass communications at North Carolina Central University, went to the courthouse early Tuesday to see the vandalism for himself. He said such actions are not what the "Black Lives Matter" movement is about and that people need to find more productive ways to voice their opinions.
"My goal in coming out was to actually take a picture of it myself and put it on my social media account and say this is not appropriate," Robinson said. "This only escalates the situation only further. We could possibly now see other institutions regarding African-Americans and others marginalized could be impacted. I would hate to come to my campus and see someone do something like this ... I would hate to find out synagogues are vandalized in this manner."
But Rodrigo Dorfman, a filmmaker who took part in some Black Lives Matter protests, called whoever defaced the courthouse memorial a "patriot."
"I have a problem with the use of the term 'vandal' for people using graffiti to express their opinions on monuments that have represented racism," Dorfman said. "It is not my place to tell people to judge or criticize how oppressed people of color are expressing their forms of resistance, their outrage, their struggle or fight."
Such monuments need to be removed from public property, he said.
"It is time for all the monuments that represent racism, murder and genocide in America to be taken down," he said. "They need to be taken down as part of an overall movement towards doing a self-accounting to what it means to live in a society that has institutional racism built into its fiber."